Search

Theatre Review: Machinal, Almeida Theatre Islington

PUBLISHED: 10:44 13 June 2018

MACHINAL by Treadwell,                , Writer - Sophie Treadwell, Director - Natalie Abrahami, Set designer - Miriam Buether, The Almeida Theatre, 2018, Credit: Johan Persson/

MACHINAL by Treadwell, , Writer - Sophie Treadwell, Director - Natalie Abrahami, Set designer - Miriam Buether, The Almeida Theatre, 2018, Credit: Johan Persson/

Johan Persson

A topical revival of unsung expressionist play inspired by the real life case of Ruth Snyder who killed her abusive husband

MACHINAL by Treadwell,                , Writer - Sophie Treadwell, Director - Natalie Abrahami, Set designer - Miriam Buether, The Almeida Theatre, 2018, Credit: Johan Persson/MACHINAL by Treadwell, , Writer - Sophie Treadwell, Director - Natalie Abrahami, Set designer - Miriam Buether, The Almeida Theatre, 2018, Credit: Johan Persson/

MACHINAL

ALMEIDA THEATRE

FOUR STARS

‘God what a thing it is to be a woman, what you got to submit to,’ is the damning indictment in Sophie Treadwell’s landmark 1928 expressionist play Machinal. It was inspired by the real-life case of Ruth Snyder, convicted for killing her abusive husband. Treadwell’s startling language offers an obvious opportunity for directors to showboat their talents but director Natalie Abrahami never loses sight of the topical reasons for staging this revival. Sound and design are embraced in a production that is dazzling but also pitifully resonant.

MACHINAL by Treadwell,                , Writer - Sophie Treadwell, Director - Natalie Abrahami, Set designer - Miriam Buether, The Almeida Theatre, 2018, Credit: Johan Persson/MACHINAL by Treadwell, , Writer - Sophie Treadwell, Director - Natalie Abrahami, Set designer - Miriam Buether, The Almeida Theatre, 2018, Credit: Johan Persson/

Claustrophobia is a key theme with splashes of heavy-duty symbolism reminiscent of Beckett peppering the stylized form, here sectioned into nine vignettes each captioned with a neon projection. The action opens in a stifling subway, brilliantly conjured by colliding bars of light. It then shifts to a Manhattan office where workers gossip in sing-song metronomic beats about teenage stenographer Miss A, later known as Helen, who is late - again. When Helen does turn up, she’s repulsed by the attention she gets from her cloying boss Mr. Jones and his fascination with her vulnerability, embodied through a fetishistic appreciation of her delicate hands. There’s a horrible inevitability to their marriage and to her discombobulated sate in the hospital after giving birth to their daughter. When she meets a man in a speakeasy, who boasts about a murder he’s committed, the die is cast.

Ben and Max Ringham’s sound is all pervasive. The 1930s dominates but background music is eclectic. In one scene, there’s the grating sound of their daughter’s computer game. Designer Miriam Buether’s set disorientates with a cunning use of a massive tilted mirror. Tones suggest Edward Hopper with small pools of light penetrating the gloom.

The ensemble is excellent and Emily Berrington as Helen is arresting. The everyman form throws up such grim male caricatures that the existential anguish may seem, well, rather gender exclusive. Helen’s blankness and passivity means she teeters between character and construct and being hung up on divorce dates the play. Yet the desperation is acute. ‘These modern neurotic women,’ curses the doctor. Made plain here, that’s really not the point.

Latest Islington Entertainment Stories

Yesterday, 17:06

It’s the season to get spooky, and an independent film festival celebrating the best of the horror genre is about to launch in Islington.

Yesterday, 14:53

Islington’s multifaceted landscape is at the centre of local photographer Richard Morrison’s latest exhibition.

Yesterday, 13:08

Stanley Underhill, one of 41 ‘Brothers’ at The Charterhouse, Islington, tells his fascinating story in Coming Out of the Black Country

Mon, 12:24

Islington Council has withdrawn its representation ahead of today’s Wireless Festival licensing hearing, saying promoters have agreed to their demands.

PROMOTED CONTENT

Fostering older teenagers means giving them the skills for life as an adult. Here, a supportive lodgings carer with Islington Council and young adult who has left care share their stories

Newsletter Sign Up

Islington Gazette twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read entertainment

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Islington Gazette
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now